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A Lasting Legacy

Updated: Sep 24, 2021



Writing prompt: Tom wakes up in the future and finds that his life has a lasting legacy.


Part one

Tom opened his eyes two moments ago. Even more frightening, Tom had closed his eyes ten minutes ago. Yet, in the eight moments between, entire worlds had passed. Earth was still earth, but not the Earth Tom had grown up on. The lack of breath in his lungs, the gap of his mouth, and the unblinking stare of his eyes make that clear. He stares, unmovingly, up and down the road bearing his bed.


Part two

Buildings, built on augmented reality, so vibrant they could actually hold weight, line the plains around him. It is evident that these monoliths are not real. Not in the classical sense anyway. They are not bricks, stacked on bricks, or glass fitted around steel beams. Yet, there they are, sitting next to the road, climbing into the sky, searching desperately for the sun. Stranger than they, is the flame that clings to them. There is nothing augmented about it. It perpetually burns, never dying, and never swallowing the pillars it engulfs. This portion of the world would be all but unrecognizable to Tom, if not for the coffee shop a few buildings down. It’s sign reads, “Warm Brew: Our Coffee Will Rock Your World”. This is Tom’s place of employment.


Part three

The poor fool. His face wrinkles to the point of being comparable to a pug sucking on a lemon. Could it be a dream? He considers the thought. His conclusion, probably not. Most often, if Tom thinks about dreaming as he dreams, his mind returns to the realm no dream can keep up with. But for Tom, his mind stays with the body he is now in and the bed with which he is already acquainted. Maybe it was bad food. Time will tell. For now, Tom is truly here and he has a dire decision to make. Is there more trouble for him in his bed, or in the world’s best cup of coffee?


Part four

The shriek of a distant banshee fills his ears. Coffee it is. He slides his feet out from his bed. It is cold outside, despite the large number of buildings burning around him. His blue and white striped pajamas, bunched up as they were, return to covering his calves when his toes embrace the asphalt beneath them. Tom is not an overly gratuitous man. Still, he cannot help but be glad about the shortened commute to work, especially by foot in this environment. It is a twenty second walk to the door, or for Tom and his belly, a thirteen second run.


Part five

The door’s handle is long and golden, and in the firelight it is quite beautiful. Still, It is pale to the touch as Tom grasps it. The hilt has no temperature of its own. Instead, it borrows the temperature of whatever it touches. This handle, apparently, has not been bothered with in some time.


Part six

Tom pulls the door open. His body arcs, to make way for the wooden frame. It does no good and he smashes his cold, bare toe. The yelp that this meek man lets out is similar to but louder than the sound that a kettle makes when your tea is ready. In fact, if any of his friends had been present at this moment, they would, from this day forward, call their kettles “Tom.” No matter, Tom was alone. That is, except for the shrieks of some distant thing which he fears he may have alerted. Picking up his sore foot, our pajama-ed protagonist steps inside.


Part seven

The lights turn on for him. That is, if you count their dim glow as “on”. Even with their working presence, the room is as shrouded with shadows as it is cloaked with light. Tom, though he is yet at the front door, has a shadow which stretches past the register on the far side of the room. It is a frightening thing that looks nothing like him. The barista is round and short. The shadow is long, and gangly, a tower on the floor.

“I suppose it’s no crime for you to look that way,” He remarks at his shadow. “You’re just doing your job.” It does not reply.


Part eight

Tom steps into the dimly lit cappuccino scented abyss, exploring the building he spent half of his waking hours in, and wondering how long it will be before he has a headache. One question looms. Why in a world as advanced and destitute as this, is Warm Brew still here? He looks at the pictures on the wall for an answer. In the far left frame, a man in a suit faces the camera smiling. A shovel is in his hands. Tom recognizes the image, but finds no answer in it. He moves forward.

Next, a picture of a cup of coffee hangs between two booths. Steamed milk dances across its top, creating the shape of a leaf. Tom can hardly help but scoff at the photo. Coffee art was never done while he worked here. He pushes deeper into the building.

The last photo on the wall, much to his surprise, is of him. There is a caption engraved on a minute gold square at its bottom. It reads, “Tom Heften: See Plaque.”


Part nine

Of course, the barista cannot help himself. Stubbed toe or not, Tom feels he could tear the building down to find this plaque. He gazes around at the walls. Nothing. The ceiling? No. Maybe the floor. Just the shadows.

He hurries quickly behind the counter. For a second, it appears he has forgotten about the buildings burning around the shop and his bed outside.

Tom sifts through the cabinets underneath the register. Dust and cobwebs robe his hand as he fingers through the darkness. He grabs a plank of wood, and pulls it to his face. Its varnish is all but gone. A silver plate hangs onto the board by the screws in its corners.

“In memory of Tom,” the barista reads. “He worked long, hard, and quietly.” He squints at the message. His stomach knots at the words.

“Yes,” a voice deep and serpentine answers.

Tom jumps at the sound, bumping his head on the counter. His butt smacks down against the ground. His eyes blur from the pain. Still, he looks out and up to see his company.

There, across the register, is his shadow, staring without eyes, grinning without teeth.

“Oh,” Tom squeaks. At this the figure laughs. Its hands reach forward, turning the lounge into a pit. They grab him.


Part ten

Tom wakes from the madness. He is in a hospital bed. The white linen surrounding his body twists wildly. They have evidently been there for a long while. He lifts his arm. It does not budge. Tom gazes at it. His forearm is covered in tape, needles, and tubes. He looks at the other. A woman is holding his hand. She is small, frail, and sad.

“Lucy,” He smiles, as if he cannot remember anything but her, and yet to remember her is all he needs.

“Tom,” she answers. The woman smiles back, but not like Tom. Her expression indicates that she bears all of the hardships which he has forgotten.

“I’m awake now,” he tells her. She squeezes his hand tightly. Tears roll from her eyes.

“That’s good, honey. I’m so glad.”

“Me too,” he tells her. Tiredness grabs him again. “How much time do you think I have left?” He asks. She swallows, opens her lips, and swallows again. Her mouth is as wet as her cheeks. Her saliva sticks to the roof of her mouth.

“I, I don’t know, sweetie.” At this, Tom’s eyes gaze into a thought. He gently nods his head.

“Do you think I’ll be remembered?” He asks the woman, turning his eyes back to her. She forces yet another smile.

“I’ll remember you. Always,” she is interrupted by her own quiet sobbing. It is not present on her face, but in her chest. “So will, He.” She adds.

Tom looks at her, sad and confused.

“He?”

“Yes, honey,” she glances upward, “He.” He shares one final smile with his Lucy. It is a sad and happy smile. Sad, because he must leave her. Sad, because it is the end of this moment. Happy, because it is enough. Happy, because he is remembered by everyone he needs to be.


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